Blog Posts

What Star Trek Did Well: Tone

One thing any novel should do is vary it’s tone throughout. Even a sad book needs happy moments and vise versa.

One episode of Star Trek that did this well is The City on the Edge of Forever. At stake is the existence of the federation itself, if Kirk and Spock fail all the good that the Federation and Starfleet had done would be as nothing. Yet the episode still had very funny moments that are among the most quoted of the original series.

One way this was done was through time. Kirk and Spock had time to decompress, they were not rushing around the entire episode.

This changing of tone meant they could build more tension. It’s more startling if your taken from a moment of hilarity to one of tragedy then one of tragedy to slightly greater tragedy.

Don’t Explain Everything About the Setting.

One thing it can be tempting to do is to try and explain everything, to make sure everything is clear. This can be bad.

For example, if I used the phrase, “Don’t be a grammar Nazi,” in a situation where a reader might not be familiar with it I might give a brief explanation, but I could hardly explain what a Nazi was quickly. You could write libraries about what Nazi’s were, what they did and what was done to stop them.

You have to know when the stop, some things you have to leave hanging because they simply are too complicated and too lengthy to go into.

Other things you leave hanging because it helps with worldbuilding. For example in Star Trek it was common for one of the main characters to say “It’s like A, B, or X.” Where A and B were known to the viewers, and X was alien.

This helps make the world feel real, it also can leave you places to build in the future. If you say there was a war between two planets you don’t have to say why it was fought, you can define that later.

World Building New Technology

One of the more challenging parts of writing anything in the far future is what I call mundane tech. The everyday things that you use without thinking about. Things like washing machines, books, or desklamps.

It may not come up often but you do need to consider how those things will look in your book. If I am reading a book set in the year 3,834 I expect EVERYTHING to be better, not just the big ticket items like power generation.

Once you have a grasp on the big leaps in technology you should just sit back in your chair and look around. Look at everything in your room and ask what you would be using instead if you lived in the world of your book.

This also will let you know if you really do have a good grasp on the basics of your world’s technology. You SHOULD be able to do this, if you can’t then you may need to think about going over your technology again.

Doing it by feel

I am going to start by saying I consider myself a very rational person. I try not to let emotion effect my judgment. Everything I believe I have a good reason to believe, and I try to not have strong feelings on anything I lack information on.

So when I say that certain things you have to write by feel, believe me.

First, your style is going to be by feel, no other way to do it. It’s very easy to get nervous with trying to make your book sound like you, to invent or create a new style of writing. This can easily mean you get so worked up that you end up writing nothing, or go over the same chapter again and again.

Don’t worry about it, it will come with time. Just do what sounds good to you, and gets across what you want to get across.

I did not really have much of a style until I was hallway through the first draft of my book. I worried about it for a while then decided that worse case I could just change things during my second or third drafts (which I did for this reason, but not as bad as I thought).

Once you get far enough along you will just know that a certain passage feels right or not, trust your gut and don’t overthink it or spend too much time on too few words.

The second thing you have to do by feel is character’s voices. While this will require some thought, you don’t need to have it all worked out before you start your first draft. Think about it as you write and it will come to you. You might come to a passage and realize that a character is using words that are too big, or too small. Give it time and thought as you write your first draft and you will be fine.